It’s time for my annual Blair Athol review. I’ve not reviewed very many of them and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been from sherry casks, I believe (this includes the official 12 yo Flora & Fauna release which may or may not be still a thing). This one, however, is from a bourbon cask, and like many of K&L’s casks from their recent release it’s from a refill hogshead. It’s always interesting to try a malt in a different guise than its norm and refill hogsheads are—in principle anyway—a good thing. Let’s see if this one rewards that confidence.
Blair Athol 21, 1997 (56.1%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Malt, a bit of sugar, some apple. Pleasant but somewhat generic right off the bat. With a bit of time there’s some more sweeter fruit (berries of some kind) but it’s still not terribly interesting. With more time there’s some vanilla and some pastry crust. With time and a few drops of water the fruit is a little more pronounced. Continue reading →
I haven’t reviewed very many Blair Athols—it’s been almost a year since my last review in fact. That one was a single sherry cask, distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2014 or 2015 by Signatory. This one is not quite as old but is also from a single sherry cask. This is from the 1995 vintage and was bottled last year by First Editions, another of Hunter Laing’s lines. The arithmetic on this one is a little wonky though. The label says it’s a single sherry butt but also says only 234 bottles came from it. That seems about 50% too low for a sherry butt. Compounding the mystery is the fact that there was a Blair Athol 21, 1995 bottled in the same series in 2017 from a sherry butt with the exact same abv but that one apparently yielded 492 bottles and 492+234 is headed into Glendronach territory for a single sherry butt after 22 years. Now there’s also a First Editions release of Blair Athol 22, 1995 from 2017 with a slightly lower abv that’s listed as having yielded only 210 bottles. 210+234 is not an implausible number for a single sherry butt either. It’s also possible, of course, that the cask was split with a completely different bottler or that despite being listed on the label as a sherry butt it was actually a sherry hogshead. Either way, it’s obviously the case that independent bottlers can’t always be relied upon for very much more accuracy/transparency on labels than the distilleries themselves. If anyone has any light to shed on this please write in below. Continue reading →
In 2014/2015 there were quite a few Blair Athol 1988s on the market, all in the mid-20s age-wise. Many of these were bottled by Signatory—21 of the 47 Blair Athols listed on Whiskybase are from Signatory*; and another 8 are from van Wees, who source from Signatory, I believe. I’ve reviewed some of these: I really liked this 26 yo bottled for K&L; I also liked this 26 yo and this 25 yo, both from van Wees. Most recently, I thought this 25 yo bottled for LMDW was excellent as well (I could be wrong but I think Signatory was the source of this cask as well—if you know differently, please write in below). All of these casks have proximate numbers, by the way, suggesting perhaps that a big parcel of casks was purchased all together by a broker.
As per Whiskybase, there have been 44 casks of Blair Athols from 1988 released in the last three years. I guess someone acquired a huge parcel of those casks and sold them on. And given that most of the releases are from Signatory, I’d guess they’re that someone and are the source for many of the other indie releases as well. Given that there were a decent number released just last year, I suspect we’ll continue to see Blair Athol 1988s for a while.
I’ve previously reviewed three other 1988s in the 25-26 yo range. I very much liked this 25 yo from van Wees and this 26 yo from Signatory for K&L; this 26 yo—also from van Wees—I liked a bit less. The one I’m reviewing now was bottled by La Maison Du Whisky, the famed Paris whisky store. It’s part of their “Artist” series—all of which have very pretty labels. As to whether the prettiness of the labels says anything about the contents of the bottles, I don’t know; I do know the bottles are pretty expensive. I didn’t pay for a whole bottle of this one; this was part of a bottle split—which is really a very good way to try a lot more whiskies than would be feasible otherwise. Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as the others. Continue reading →
Here is the third, and penultimate, in my mini-run of reviews of recent Signatory exclusives for K&L. Will this hold any surprises as Monday’s Benrinnes did? I expect not as this is not my first sherried Blair Athol of this general age from this period. I’ve previously reviewed a 25 yo and a 26 yo, both from 1988, both from sherry casks and both bottled by van Wees. My understanding is that Signatory is also the source of van Wees’ casks; if that’s true then that bodes well for this one: I liked both the aforementioned (though one more than the other) despite their being at 46%; this one is at cask strength.
The strength is not the only difference though: this one is much more expensive than those van Wees bottlings were and that discrepancy is hard to ascribe only to the different strengths as the price multiplier is almost 2x. Whether Signatory or K&L are the source of the markup, I’m not sure but it made me very reluctant to pay for a full bottle considering how much less I had paid for the others (one bought for myself and one bought for friends). K&L’s marketing spiel would have it that the last Signatory Blair Athol 25, 1988 sent customers into a frenzy, with people calling to ask for it well after it sold out; that doesn’t seem to have translated yet into big demand for this one as, at time of writing, a lot of it is still available. Anyway: let’s see what this is like. Continue reading →
Let’s make it three sherried whiskies in a row this week.
My friends Clara and Rob sometimes join in on my European whisky purchases. Sometimes they want specific things (usually the Glenfarclas 15), sometimes they ask me to recommend things they might like and which seem like good values. As I know they like sherried whiskies, and as I really liked the last Blair Athol of similar age from van Wees that I reviewed (this 25 yo, also from 1988), I recommended they take a chance on this one. Van Wees’ selections are always good value. I was happy to hear that they are really enjoying it, and also happy that they shared a couple of ounces with me.
Despite the colour (at a diluted 46%) this one is from a refill sherry cask—European oak maybe? This was bottled late last year.
This Blair Athol 25 is the last of three whiskies being simul-reviewed this month with Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls. We agreed on our notes and score for the Bruichladdich Organic, and diverged a fair bit on the Caol Ila 12, 1999 from G&M. How will we fare here? (The link to Michael’s review will be posted here later in the morning. And here it is.)
Blair Athol is a relatively obscure distillery and Van Wees is known for their budget-friendly bottlings. This might seem like a bad combination on paper, but I’ve actually had pretty good luck with the Van Wees bottles I’ve tried. And, indeed, the lower recognition/reputation of the names of distilleries such as Blair Athol probably allows better iterations of their malts to be bottled for relatively less money by the non-boutique indies. At any rate, more casks of 1988 Blair Athol seem to be coming on the market—Signatory also has a sibling cask in their CS series. Continue reading →
Another in Diageo’s “Flora & Fauna” series. Blair Athol is a distillery in the Highlands; it is not terribly well-known and it doesn’t put out much by way of official single malt (this expression may be it). Most of its output goes into the Bell’s blend. There’s not very much of its malt available from independents either. I’ve had a somewhat blank 12 yo, 1998 in Signatory’s UCF series and that did not inspire me to hunt down more–there are a couple from Signatory and Douglas Laing on the US market, and lately there seems to be an older one from Duncan Taylor as well (any feedback on these would be greatly appreciated). This official sherried bottling I purchased with some confidence as it has a decent reputation, and as I quite enjoyed the similarly sherried entries in the series from Mortlach and Dailuaine.